TCI Friday

One of the small bits of progress I’ve made as a human in mid-stage adulthood is the acceptance and readiness to be wrong about things. Growing up, as they say, is hard to do. So today I’m going to lay out a scenario for you, one in which I participated, and I’m going to let you tell me how I was/am wrong.

I was out on the eBike, and no matter what I said on the podcast yesterday, I was wearing a helmet. Donning the old dome protector seems like the first, best way for a cyclist not to be in the wrong, but bear with me, I’ll be wrong in a minute here.

I zipped down my town’s main thoroughfare and hung a right, stopping at the red light first, putting my foot down, like a solid citizen. Rolling again down a major through street, I planted myself firmly in the bike lane, freshly painted and empty going both ways. But hark, what’s this, a jogger approaching in my lane, running against traffic.

I should note that there was no one around, no one on the sidewalks, no one in the bike lanes, and very few, if any cars. And so, I processed this runner coming towards me as a free agent. I assumed he would step up onto the sidewalk to pass me. Really, he could have gone anywhere.

This might be where I started to go wrong.

In my defense, I don’t see a stick figure of a jogger in this photo.

I decided I wasn’t giving up the lane. I’ll tell you candidly that whomever advised runners (and I AM a runner as well as a cyclist) that it was cool to run against traffic did everyone a disservice, setting up conflicts like the one I was about to have. As our friend and I approached one another, neither of us moved. Closer and closer we came, until finally I steered just barely wide enough for him to slide by me on the inside.

“THANKS, DUDE!” he said in a loud and aggrieved tone. I said nothing.

Here’s my half-baked take. The approaching runner can see what’s behind me, whether there is a car there or not, so s/he knows whether it’s safe for me to move out into the auto traffic lane. I can’t know this without looking backwards over my shoulder, which sorta eliminates the benefit of being in the bike lane in the first place. In my moral universe, the right hand bike lane belongs to bikes. The sidewalk belongs to runners/pedestrians, and when I run (although why you would ever run on a road if you could run on a trail I don’t know) I use that path rather than forcing cyclists to deal with me.

But ok, the thing is, why did I court the conflict? What was the point? My ego told me I was right, and therefore I might be justified in being intransigent, so I willingly entered a game of chicken with another person when it wasn’t at all necessary.

Here’s the kicker, the runner was one of my neighbors. We are normally on friendly terms. In the moment, and in that context, I wasn’t sure whether he recognized me or not. This begets the conundrum of whether to go and talk to him about it or not, to maybe own my part in what was an unnecessary conflict.

I don’t want to tell you what I did though. What I want for TCI Friday this week is to hear your take on the scenario and your views on what I should have done during and after. Then I’ll tell you how it turned out in the comments later.

Join the conversation
  1. jlaudolff says

    I’m learning (have learned) to take the high road in situations like this. I’m sure this fellow thought he had a good reason to run there. Despite being a neighbor you may never encounter him in this same spot again and so may never have this kind of conflict. This strategy works when I can override my bad temper and low faith in humanity.

  2. rides in be says

    Any time I start a conversation, interaction or train of reasoning that begins with my rights, I almost always end up in the wrong place. Given that you are gnawing on this one still and publicly confessing that you were/are in the wrong, I would text your neighbor and give a simple apology for not avoiding the unpleasant passing. Then keep riding in the lane on that e-bike without bitterness or resentment or self-doubt.

  3. Barry Johnson says

    Runners declare rights based upon culture (running in the road against traffic) cyclists declare them based upon laws. However, runners are pedestrians (in mot jurisdictions) therefore cyclists are required to yield to them.

    What about our culture? Well, I think our culture is about being angry about runners who do not easily step aside or run/walk 2-3 abreast. More and more, seems like laws in the US favor the aggressor, look at Rittenhouse. Maybe gravel is a good thing since we now live in the Wild West, most likely Assos will be making a holster and Carhart some bibshorts soon.

  4. Hautacam says

    I think you were right and also wrong at the same time. The jogger should not have been there and should have given up the lane when he saw you coming, since you were the designated user going the designated direction. But when he did not then you should have made sufficient room in order to clearly avoid a collision, which would have been bad for you as well as for him. So the close call is on you.

    Whether to discuss it with your neighbor… i dunno, man. That could turn out awesome, or it could tank your relationship. I’m betting you had the convo and handled it like a boss.

  5. alanm9 says

    Move into the car lane where bikes belong according to the laws in all 50 states, and stay there. Sorry, that wasn’t your question, but that’s my answer.

  6. johnrom719 says

    Who should yield to whom in the bike lane is up for debate. What’s indisputable, though, is that you pi55ed off your neighbor. It is always better to be reconciled than to be right, so you know what to do: Go apologize, without explaining your point of view, traffic laws, laws of physics, or anything else.

    Next week’s question: what should you do if it was a complete stranger who now is pi55ed off at generic “cyclist” instead of Robot? All cyclists then shout, “THANKS DUDE,” in a loud and aggrieved tone.

    By the way, I join you in being a slow-to-mature doofus. We’re in the tribe of unintentionally miscreant. Maybe we should get patches to sew on our shirts so people know to avoid us in the bike lane? Sort of like Hester Prynne in the Scarlet Letter, except with stranger costumes.

  7. pete.ihrig says

    When traveling on a bike in a bike lane on a public road in Oregon the cyclist is considered a vehicle and all vehicles must give the right-of-way to pedestrians. In considering the hierarchy of “vulnerable” users in Oregon pedestrians also always have the right-of-way.

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